THE FIRM Akin Gump has established a reputation as one of the preeminent media and entertainment financing firms. It acts for an array of leading lenders and investors, including banks, hedge funds and high net worth individuals. Its lawyers are vastly experienced in financing transactions across film, music and television, both domestic and cross-border in scope.
Sources say: "Fantastic lawyers who know the law and the entertainment business incredibly well. They are extraordinarily bright, available 24/7, and give us excellent service."
KEY INDIVIDUALS "Smart, engaging and always on the ball," John Burke draws high praise from clients who value his expertise in the film finance arena. Peers acknowledge that he is "a serious competitor" in the film space. Marissa Román focuses on media finance work and is praised by sources for her "ability to get the deal done."
THE FIRM This group enters the rankings this year in recognition of the breadth and depth of its media and entertainment involvement. Its attorneys work across the full range of entertainment issues, including financing, distribution, copyright protection and M&A transactions. It works with a range of prominent and emerging clients, including Warner Bros., Merv Griffin Entertainment and Summit Entertainment, and is currently handling the legal issues relating to Summit’s 'Twilight' franchise.
Sources say: "The lawyers are excellent: they're extremely responsive, on top of how they communicate, and have answers on everything I need – the quality of their work is great."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Fred Bernstein heads up Wildman's Los Angeles office and is the key contact on the media and entertainment side.
THE FIRM Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’s media and entertainment group has forged a prominent position in the market, as evidenced by an impressive client list that includes entertainment giants such as Twentieth Century Fox, Universal and Paramount. Clients value the firm’s depth of resources, and regularly call upon its London and Paris offices.
Sources say: "We find it to be very effective at negotiating complex and complicated deals. It has very deep knowledge of IP issues on the entertainment side, but also deep corporate experience – it's difficult to find both of those in one team."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Ruth Fisher draws extravagant praise from her clients, with one stating: "I don’t know another lawyer as smart, good or efficient as her.” Fisher is noted for her expertise in assisting studio, music and software clients through transactions. She cochairs the practice with Lawrence Ulman, a hugely experienced practitioner noted for his "incredible depth of knowledge of IP issues and corporate issues specific to the entertainment sector."
Since publication, Lawrence J Ulman has retired from this practice.
THE FIRM This team covers a wide range of entertainment work, and regularly assists clients across the music, television, motion picture, publishing and digital media sectors. It is also one of a minority in the market that represents both major entertainment corporations and prominent entertainment individuals.
Sources say: "This group is among the leaders for tax and finance work in the entertainment space, and is also a clear leader for clients within the music space."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Alan Schwartz is a veteran of the media and entertainment bar, with particular expertise in film financing. Jay Cooper is lauded as "a terrific lawyer, who knows the music industry from top to bottom."
THE FIRM This firm's stellar reputation in the media and entertainment field is earned through strong teams in both New York and California. The West Coast group has carved out a significant market share in representing both leading talent and entertainment companies in high-profile transactions. It represents a number of leading financiers, including the financiers of the Academy Award-winning 'The Hurt Locker'.
Sources say: "If you have a deal which requires sophistication, creativity and that difficult-to-define ability to just close out a deal – these really are the guys to choose. Hugely effective."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Michael Mayerson is managing partner of the firm's LA office and chair of its entertainment finance practice group. Peers and clients are united in praise, noting that "he's top on all levels." Sources are glad to see Mayerson on a deal, adding that "he is a terrific professional, highly practical, respected, and never one to get caught up in the noise of the moment.” John Frankenheimer is quite simply "the real deal," according to clients, who believe him to be "a first-rate lawyer, a mentor to his clients, someone who knows absolutely everyone in the business, and a genuine leading music lawyer.” Scott Edel focuses on advising on film, TV and music transactions. Clients value working with someone who is "always looking for a solution and never putting up roadblocks," noting that, "sadly, so many attorneys turn out to be deal-breakers, but Scott is 100% a deal-maker." Stephen Saltzman has a niche handling international distribution deals, and is in particular a go-to for deals involving the German market. Craig Emanuel is the team's leading talent-side attorney, representing prominent directors, writers, actors and producers in the full range of motion picture and TV transactions.
THE FIRM This notable entertainment group has traditionally received plaudits for its strength in the music sector, yet the team offers a true breadth of industry coverage, with experience in entertainment niches such as film, television, books, video games and theater. It acts for some truly iconic entertainment figures, including Neil Young, Brian Wilson and the estate of Miles Davis.
Sources say: "It gives you both commercial and legal judgment, and having commercially-minded legal advice is a real differentiator for us."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Lee Phillips is an experienced practitioner and "a master of entertainment and music contracts." He leads the firm's counsel to legendary musicians Brian Wilson and Neil Young.
THE FIRM Market commentators are quick to acknowledge O’Melveny’s prominence within the media and entertainment sector, and point not just to the breadth, depth and prestige of the practice, but also to its reach, which ensures clients are able to receive global assistance from its Asian and European offices. The team has vast experience of complex financing transactions, and of distribution and licensing deals within the movie, television, music and online sectors. One notable highlight was advising Spyglass Entertainment on its merger with MGM as part of the highly publicized prepackaged Chapter 11 announced by MGM.
Sources say: "There are a huge number of reasons to choose these guys – firstly, they have the highest integrity. Secondly, in a global world, it is a genuinely global firm. Thirdly, it's a phenomenal team, covering the full range of corporate transactions. Basically, it gets an 'A' in every criterion."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Practice chair Joseph Calabrese is acknowledged by clients as "quite simply one of the best in the business." Even peers are forced to concede that "there are no better transactional lawyers in town than Joe Calabrese and Christopher Brearton." Brearton is managing partner of the firm’s Century City office and has a rapidly growing profile within the entertainment space, with sources pointing to his lead role in advising Spyglass Entertainment in the MGM merger mentioned above. Robert Haymer is another of the firm's "truly first-class M&A lawyers," and is regularly involved in significant transactions for film and TV clients. Christopher Murray is highlighted for his IP expertise, and is regularly consulted by clients on copyright and trademark-related issues. Stephen Scharf is "a terrific film financing lawyer." Clients say "he stands out as an exceptional lawyer and adviser – he really understands us and the industry."
THE FIRM The team here offers the full spectrum of media and entertainment services, including financing, production and distribution, IP, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate finance advice. Its client base is equally varied, encompassing motion picture studios, TV networks and a range of other media and entertainment companies. Market commentators cite the team’s role as entertainment counsel to Comcast in the high-profile joint venture to acquire a majority interest in NBC Universal as proof of its prominence in the sector.
Sources say: "A real go-to for financing transactions within this space."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Robert Darwell chairs the firm’s media and entertainment practice group and is routinely lauded for his expertise in international transactions. Thomas Glen Leo is "a prominent financing lawyer in the sector."
THE FIRM This 12-member team has achieved recognition for the breadth of services it offers entertainment clients, which encompasses acquisitions and sales, financings, mergers and acquisitions, licensing and distribution, and employment advice. Its client roster features representatives from film companies, TV networks, digital media companies, financiers, producers, and individual actors, writers, directors and executives.
Sources say: "Most firms will tell you they are problem solvers, but it's not universally true. Sitting opposite these guys, you see straight away they are. They know how to represent the client – how to get sensible, smart deal points without messing up the deal. They are efficient and effective.”
KEY INDIVIDUALS Matthew Thompson's style endears him to clients, who enthuse about the benefits of having this "understated counselor" on board. "Working with him just gives you confidence – you know he's considered all the options and will make sure you're on track to achieve your goals.” Schuyler Moore brings considerable corporate and finance expertise to bear for his clients, who in turn appreciate his efficiency of communication. "He's so concise it's as if, in a world of lawyers who just makes things more complex, he's Occam's razor." Sources describe him as "a real go-to guy for tax issues in this area."
THE FIRM The Ziffren Brittenham name is well recognized in the entertainment industry, with market commentators quick to praise the skills of its seasoned transactional attorneys. It engages in both talent-side and transactional work for clients across TV, music, film and digital media.
Sources say: "A great group – the whole team is terrific. They know exactly how to run a transaction, how to lead it, how to get things done."
KEY INDIVIDUALS Skip Brittenham is an "iconic figure" in entertainment M&A and financing. "If you're in a big entertainment deal and you're not talking to Skip, you're probably missing the boat," said one source. Samuel Fischer's profile is that of "a first-rate TV lawyer." Kenneth Ziffren's track record, wide-ranging contacts and considerable experience speak for themselves, but that doesn't stop his peers speaking on his behalf as well, dubbing him "a preeminent sage of this practice" and an "entertainment legend." John Branca works with a range of songwriters and artists on copyright-related issues and is described as "a major player in music." David Nochimson is the consummate deal lawyer. "Straightforward, no-nonsense, no self-righteousness – he just gets the deal done."
of Lichter Grossman Nicholas Adler & Goodman is a key attorney in the motion picture sector. Jill Cohen
of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP is held in high esteem by clients, who are keen to highlight her "rare ability to perform the protective functions of a lawyer without losing site of the business necessities."
She represents a range of clients, including major studios, TV networks and video game companies. Patricia Mayer
of Mitchell Silberberg & Knupp LLP works with a broad range of clients, including studios, financiers and distributors, across a variety of media matters. Richard Wirthlin
chairs the media and entertainment practice group at Latham & Watkins LLP. His personal practice is focused on M&A transactions and financing work within the entertainment space. Juliette Youngblood
, a former partner at Irell & Manella, has now established herself as a solo practitioner, at Youngblood Group PC. She has a solid practice advising entertainment clients on the full range of issues relating to film and television. Eric Greenspan
of Myman, Abell, Fineman, Fox, Greenspan & Light LLP continues to draw acclaim for his representation of writers, producers, directors, actors and content creators. Barry Hirsch
of Hirsch Wallerstein Hayum Matlof & Fishman has developed a prominent practice representing high-profile talent with regards to motion picture transactions. James Jackoway
of Jackoway Tyerman Wertheimer Austen Mandelbaum Morris & Klein is a veteran media and entertainment practitioner, who is an acknowledged expert in matters pertaining to the film, TV and music industries. His colleague Deborah Klein
has forged a strong practice representing prominent talent from within the movie industry. Eric Weissmann
of Weissmann, Wolff, Bergman, Coleman, Grodin & Evall, LLP represents a broad range of entertainment industry clients, including actors, authors, directors, producers and financiers.
Since publication, Eric Greenspan has joined Myman Greenspan Fineman Fox Rosenberg & Light LLP
Since publication, Eric Weissmann has joined Eric Weissmann, A Professional Corporation